Your Guide To a Career in Healthcare Management

Healthcare professional looking at files

The field of healthcare is filled with qualified professionals who want to make a difference, and you may be attracted to this field because you feel called upon to help others. However, you may not necessarily wish to provide direct patient care.

If that sounds like you, consider pursuing a career in healthcare management. So, what jobs can you get with a healthcare management degree? There are quite a few options for aspiring professionals who want to break into the healthcare field. Explore this career guide to learn more and begin weighing your options.

What Do Health Services Managers Do?

Healthcare managers—also known as health services managers, administrators or executives—are responsible for planning, coordinating and overseeing the daily operations of healthcare facilities and services. Some healthcare managers are responsible for overseeing an entire facility, whereas others focus on just one department or clinical area.

The specific tasks that these professionals perform during a typical workday are heavily dependent on the needs of the facility and the specific position. In general, however, if you choose a career in healthcare management, you might do any of the following:

  • Recruit and supervise staff members, coordinate ongoing training initiatives and develop work schedules
  • Manage the facility’s finances (including patient fees) and develop departmental or facility-wide budgets
  • Develop the mission and values of the facility, as well as departmental goals
  • Identify ways of improving the quality of patient care, as well as the efficiency and profitability of the healthcare facility
  • Act as the public face of the healthcare organization and represent it on governing boards or during community meetings
  • Maintain accurate records regarding the facility’s healthcare services

It’s also not unusual for a health services manager to specialize. For example, some may oversee a specific department in a hospital, such as orthopedic surgery or physical therapy. Others might work across departments in an area such as health information technology or finance.

Where Do Healthcare Management Professionals Work?

One way to narrow down your career choices within this field is to think about the specific type of healthcare setting you might want to work in. State, local and private hospitals are the largest employer of managers and administrators. Other professionals work in the offices of physicians or for outpatient care centers.

There are plenty of other options to consider as well, including the following:

  • Hospice agencies
  • Nursing homes
  • Assisted living communities
  • Pharmacies (located within a hospital, nursing home, clinic or retail store) and pharmaceutical manufacturing companies
  • Public health agencies and programs
  • Rehabilitation facilities
  • Behavioral/mental health facilities
  • Home healthcare agencies
  • Teaching hospitals
  • Outreach health agencies for the homeless

As you can see, your career may take you in any number of directions. Regardless of which healthcare setting you choose, you can be confident that your work will make a positive difference in the lives of patients and healthcare staff members alike.

What Jobs Can You Get With a Healthcare Management Degree?

If a career in healthcare management is in your future, you should give some thought to the specific type of job you’d like to pursue. Note that there are many entry-level opportunities available to graduates with a bachelor’s degree. If you’d like to apply to an executive-level position at a major hospital later in your career, you may want to consider returning to school to earn a master’s degree.

Ambulatory Care Manager

Ambulatory care facilities provide only outpatient services, rather than inpatient care. A couple of examples include a standalone urgent care facility and an outpatient surgery center. When patients do need to be admitted overnight, they are transferred to an inpatient facility.

An ambulatory care manager is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of this type of facility. At a smaller facility, the manager may be responsible for multiple departments ranging from human resources to finance to emergency response. At larger ambulatory care facilities, there may be one healthcare manager per department.

Assisted Living Administrator

Assisted living facilities aren’t quite the same thing as nursing homes. The residents at an assisted living facility are older adults who need some assistance with various tasks, but who do not require intensive assistance or have debilitating medical challenges.

The assisted living administrator can act as the initial point of contact for potential residents and their families. This professional is also responsible for overseeing the facility’s daily operations and ensuring that the facility provides a positive, healthy and socially stimulating environment for its residents. An assisted living administrator may work on a variety of tasks ranging from developing the budget to approving a calendar of events for the residents.

Healthcare Quality Improvement Manager

As the job title implies, healthcare quality improvement managers are charged with improving the quality of patient care and patient outcomes. These professionals may work in a variety of settings ranging from large hospitals to teaching hospitals to nursing homes. They may do any of the following tasks:

  • Navigate the process of getting the facility or a department accredited
  • Review existing processes and procedures to identify areas of improvement
  • Liaise with department heads and nurse leaders to develop better guidelines that promote ideal patient outcomes
  • Develop protocols for reducing rates of hospital readmissions and hospital-acquired infections

Health Information Manager

If you’re looking for a career in healthcare management and you have a passion for technology, this role could be the right one for you. Information technology (IT) is playing an increasingly important and prominent role in our healthcare system. Healthcare facilities around the country have implemented electronic health records and other technological advances to increase patients’ active involvement in their own healthcare and to facilitate the coordination of patient care.

It’s the responsibility of a health information manager to ensure that the facility’s medical technology is up to date and working as it should. One major task for health information managers is to ensure the security and privacy of patients’ health information. In addition, these professionals may do anything from recommending investments in new medical technology to developing staff training programs for that technology.

How To Become a Healthcare Management Professional

You can begin preparing for a career in healthcare management as early as high school. Although healthcare managers and administrators do not provide patient care, it’s helpful for them to have a basic understanding of healthcare and nursing topics. If your high school offers any introductory courses to nursing or related topics, these would be good classes for you to take.

In addition, you should try to take as many business-related courses as possible, such as the following:

  • Accounting
  • Economics
  • Computer applications
  • Business law
  • Communications

Leadership skills are also important. Look for extracurricular activities and sports teams to join, and begin actively working on cultivating your leadership skills. Lastly, consider volunteering for positions in healthcare settings, such as a local nursing home or children’s hospital.

As you approach your high school graduation date, you’ll need to carefully consider your options for your post-secondary education. Most health services management positions require at least a bachelor’s degree. Earning a master’s degree may not be strictly necessary, but it can greatly improve your employment options.

Earning Your Undergraduate Healthcare Management Degree

It’s entirely possible to enter the healthcare management profession with a bachelor’s degree in a subject such as accounting or human resources. However, if you already know that you want to work in healthcare management, it makes more sense to earn a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management or administration. A healthcare management degree will instill competencies in key areas such as project management and leadership with a strong focus on the healthcare field.

The specific curriculum will vary from one school to the next, but in general, you can expect to study topics such as the following:

  • The issues and challenges of the modern regulatory environment, with a look at compliance issues regarding accrediting bodies
  • The factors that influence healthcare quality, cost and access, such as social priorities, political trends and economic issues
  • Ethical theories and decision-making models that guide the resolution of ethical dilemmas in the modern healthcare system
  • Strategic planning in healthcare settings
  • The role of healthcare management information systems (health technology) in 21st-century healthcare systems

It’s also often easier to land a job after college if you gain some hands-on experience during your time as a student. Take the initiative to visit your student services department to inquire about relevant internship opportunities. An internship in the healthcare field can enable you to begin developing your professional network. You may also acquire some key contacts who might provide you with letters of reference.

Do You Need a Master’s Degree To Work in Healthcare Management?

It’s often possible to land an entry-level job in healthcare management with just a bachelor’s degree, especially if that bachelor’s degree focuses on this field. However, you’ll find that many employers may prefer or require that their managers have a master’s degree. If you aspire to a top-level executive position at a large hospital, consider a graduate degree.

There are two main options for your graduate education. You may choose to earn a Master of Science in Health Administration or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with an Emphasis on Health Systems Management. Both degrees would enable you to pursue your dream career, so which one should you choose?

An MBA degree would focus more on general business competencies with a specialization in healthcare management. In contrast, a master’s degree in healthcare management or administration would focus entirely on the manager’s role and responsibilities in a healthcare setting. So, you should earn an MBA with a concentration if you would like to develop a broader knowledge base and skill set.

Alternatively, if you know without a doubt that you’d like to devote your career to the healthcare field, a Master of Science may be best for you. Do note that even if you do choose a Master of Science, rather than an MBA, you’ll still acquire transferrable skills that are desirable to employers across industries.

Essential Skills and Characteristics for a Career in Healthcare Management

Along with competencies in business management and health services, healthcare management professionals can benefit from having excellent interpersonal and leadership skills. Teamwork and a collaborative mindset are essential. Healthcare managers must often work closely with department heads and other professionals; as such, it’s important to be able to work well with people from all walks of life.

Other skills and characteristics needed to be successful in this role include:

  • Analytical reasoning
  • A commitment to lifelong learning and professional development
  • Attention to detail
  • Creative problem-solving abilities
  • Technology competencies

Are you interested in a career that would allow you to make a positive impact on your community? If so, consider earning your healthcare management degree at Grand Canyon University. The College of Nursing and Health Care Professions offers the Bachelor of Science in Health Care Administration degree program along with many others to help you reach your career goals. To begin planning your academic journey at GCU, click on the Request Info button at the top of your screen.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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